On brands, customers and implicit responsibility

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I was getting a pedicure over the weekend at the salon when the lady sitting next to me tore a bit of a page out of a magazine she was reading and shoved it into her bag, then resumed reading like nothing had happened. The therapist and I looked at each other in shock simultaneously.

Then I looked at the lady more closely, wondering what kind of a person does that to someone else’s property. And I noticed she was wearing a Withings Activité Pop on her wrist.

I own a Withings Activité Pop.

I almost instantly felt sullied, like I was part of a tribe that engaged in antisocial behaviour, for no fault of mine. I felt responsible.

That got me thinking about the psychological impact of brand ownership, of which we know there is plenty. It’s why Burberry wanted to wipe away the association with chavs that people used to often make a few years ago.

It also got me thinking about customer responsibility, quite distinct from the larger, more pressing, and more discussed issue of brand responsibility.

If you own a brand that is of a particular stature (and I’m not saying Withings is necessarily one such brand!), do you have a responsibility to behave a particular way, conferred on you implicitly by the brand as a result of your purchase?

The argument obviously is that that’s nonsense – you’re the one who’s buying the product and you can behave any which way you choose.

Do you, though?

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2 thoughts on “On brands, customers and implicit responsibility

  1. Branding is all about transfer of emotion & about changing how people feel. A brand resonates the story people want to believe and want to be part of (e.g Apple, Nike, John Lewis etc) i.e tribe hence if i also wear “Withings Activité Pop” we instantaneously/subconsciously connect and probably align on some aspects of thinking.

    Based on incident you have described , i felt there are 2 separate things and there is no corelation between them as in owning a product & behaviour aspect (Human Being)..Owning a product would definitely not dictate how i would behave or do things isn’t it? Owning a product is the Intent to be part of the “tribe” but definitely how we behave is individual choice (based on so many external factors)..

    • Thanks for your comment. You make an interesting point, but I believe that buying into a brand often means you are buying into certain values, of which this particular behaviour was not in sync with. Of course there’s a question around what values Withings exactly espouses, which is another question altogether!

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